Downtown Norfolk
Outdoor Dining Guide


City of Norfolk


Norfolk, Virginia

Completion Date



Work Program Architects worked in conjunction with volunteers from the Downtown Norfolk Council’s Walkability Committee and City staff to develop an easy-to-follow visual guide for designing a code-compliant outdoor dining area. Outdoor dining, signage, lighting, plants and shading devices provide enhanced layers of complexity that make the best city streets magical places to walk down, and fabulous places to dine outside and observe the city.

Downtown Norfolk is a historic city with narrow brick sidewalks and limited public right-of-way. Therefore, it’s important carefully design each outdoor dining experience to make the most of the limited area, maintain a safe flow of pedestrian traffic and meet ADA requirements to ensure the streets are easily traversed by all.

These guidelines walk a restauranteur through a series of four steps:

  1. identify the best outdoor dining configuration
  2. lay out a barrier to define the space
  3. select the furniture and fixtures
  4. add lighting and signage.

The guidelines dispel some common Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority (ABC) myths and provide icons that are easily understood for configurations where food and alcoholic beverages can be served. They provide recommendations for high-quality design in the selection of furniture and fixtures and ensure compatibility of color temperature for all outdoor lighting Downtown. Finally, it integrates with the Downtown Norfolk parklet program to provide additional opportunities for outdoor seating.